BMW Reveals the Concept Skytop, a Sleek Two-Seater Based on the 8-Series

BMW Shows Concept Skytop at Villa d’Este ConcoursEnes Kucevic Photography/BMW

  • At last, a new limited-edition halo car from BMW?

  • With a bit of luck, the Bavarian Motor Works will build 50 units of this 8-series-based targa-top crowd stopper and sell them at half a million dollars apiece.

  • We took a brief spin in the open-air two-seater on the eve of its launch at the 2024 Villa d’Este Concorso d’Eleganza.

Great minds think alike. BMW unveiled this striking Concept Skytop at the Concorso d’Eleganza event, where it has been a sponsor for 25 years. Only a few days earlier, in Monte Carlo, Mercedes had shown the first of its Mythos cars, the striking F1-inspired, SL-based PureSpeed spider, of which 250 pieces will be made starting in 2025.

Like the Benz, the elegant and sporty BMW presented on the grounds of the famed Villa d’Este in Italy is a powerful tailor-made open-air two-seater. The Skytop is intended to become a handbuilt collector’s item. If the board approves the proposal, the first of no more than 50 items (although one source suggested 100) should be completed at the new coachbuilding wing of the automaker’s Dingolfing factory late next year. The base price is rumored to be the equivalent of $542,000, which isn’t unreasonable considering the M8 cabriolet donor car currently lists at more than $207,000 before options.

BMW’s first showing at the traditional Villa d’Este event was the radically modern 2006 Mille Miglia concept designed by Chris Bangle and his team. Other noteworthy interim efforts included the 2008 M1 Hommage by Benoit Jacob, which previewed the awesome yet flawed i8; the 2015 3.0 CSL Hommage by Karim Habib, which harked back to the magic original 1973 lightweight coupe; and the 2016 2002 Hommage, which built a bridge between the raw 2002 turbo and the M2 Competition.

So far, none of the nine show cars presented on the shores of Lake Como made it into production, but last year’s Z4 shooting brake came very close, and in 2024 all the money is now on the Skytop, which was penned by Marcus Syring, who is going to shape future Alpina models.

“The Concept Skytop offers a combination of driving dynamics and elegance at the highest level, comparable to its historic ancestors, like the Z8 or 503,” says a proud Adrian van Hooydonk, head of BMW Group Design. Although the basic proportions correspond to the M8 cabrio, the Skytop has no rear seats. In their place we find a sturdy targa top/rollover protection element which doubles as a B-pillar with integrated trademark Hofmeister kinks. The long, sharp creases of the finned rear side panels meet at their trailing edges with the lipped power-operated decklid. The two roof panels must be dismantled manually and stowed away in the trunk, which is notably smaller than the car’s generous dimensions suggest. With the exception of the windscreen and the doors, the bodywork is all new.

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Enes Kucevic Photography/BMW

The side view is arguably not the Skytop’s most fetching perspective. The huge filler cap makes even the big 21-inch rear wheels look small, the flared geometric rocker panel is at odds with the relatively soft lines and radii that sculpture the flanks, and the brightly polished rims don’t match the anodized brightwork that defines the DLO.

The front end, however, is spot on; when did we last say that about a new BMW? The winged double-kidney grille is lit at night. Subtle horizontal bars on the lateral and lower air intakes and the rear diffuser are painted anthracite, not black, which blends well with the terracotta-over-champagne color scheme. The ultra-slim, high-intensity four-dot LED headlamps and L-pattern taillights are nicely toned-down variations on a familiar theme.

Monochrome Inside

But it’s the interior of the Skytop that truly excels and makes all the difference. It avoids the temptation of adding conventional luxury touches like too much chrome, wood everywhere, overly elaborate stitching, an over-the-top display, or gimmicky contrasting piping. Instead, the design team opted for a beautifully finished, totally monochrome driver environment trimmed wall to wall with sumptuous soft leather. Nice detail touches include flush speaker covers, leather-wrapped sills, a brogue-style perforation pattern on seats and door panels reminiscent of men’s footwear, numerous pinkish crystal applications, and a vertical rear window that can be lowered at the push of a button, as in the 6-series. While the hopefully weatherproof hide trim extends to the targa bar and the roof panels, the contrasting color scheme of the cabin sprays over onto the long, boattail-like rear deck as an expertly applied two-tone paint finish with a twist.

A Brief Drive

What is it like to drive the latest effort from the Munich dreamworks? It’s hard to tell because we had to take it easy, since every stone chip, grease mark, or oil stain would have spoiled the showpiece’s grand appearance, scheduled for the following day. So the pace was slow, and without registration documents or number plates the radius was restricted to the private fenced-off gravel pathways of the Villa Erba.

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There are three things the driver is bound to notice even before he or she enters the car. There’s a dividing full-length stingray-like center spine extending from the hood to the rear deck, where it arrives having morphed from body color to chrome. The metal door handles are small, upright, and hug the windows, evidently inspired by those on the Neue Klasse X show car. The cabin is cozy, cosseting, and comfortable, matching any Rolls-Royce’s for class and craftsmanship.

Sadly, the instrumentation is generic 8-series: no round dials, no charming retro touches, and no improvements to the ho-hum ergonomics. But the view over the more sculptured hood is quite different, and so is the Skytop’s top, which feels more like a large sunroof than a classic convertible top. The three-quarter visibility is much better than expected, and there’s a cocooning effect making the driver feel splendidly isolated.

There are a few drawbacks, too: The packaging is compromised for a car as big as this, a power-operated top like the clever glass roof of the Ferrari 550 Superamerica might have been a compelling alternative solution, and even a mild power boost to the 625-hp V-8 engine would have helped justify the expected high price.

If great minds really do think alike, then why does Mercedes have an easier time producing few-off Mythos cars, whereas BMW has quite a different track record with its halo-car contenders? Is it because Mercedes has more inspirational donor models for small-volume, limited-edition specials, like SL, Gullwing, G-class, C111, Maybach, and AMG GT?

We’d love to see the Skytop be the kickoff project for a new streamlined Bespoke Strategy for BMW—one that would combine color and trim upgrades with very specific, yet potentially profound, sheetmetal revisions. Watch this space, or next year’s Concorso d’Eleganza.

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